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  • Sailaja Menon

Are you raising a Spoiled Brat

Q&A | By Sailaja Menon , Psychologist

Please define what is construed as a spoiled brat?

A spoiled Brat would commonly refer to those children whose parents, guardian, caretakers and or educators consistently fail to teach them socially acceptable ways of behaviour and discipline. Due to this failure in instruction these children often come across as “privileged” with no dire consequences to any of their behaviour and actions

However, it is important to pay attention in what context this term is used. Many times this definition can also invoke negativity such as the child might have a psychological problem, or the parents are weak and insecure which necessarily might not be the case at all. It is always important to find the right balance.

What are parents doing to contribute to this problem?

I see 3 major issues on how a parent could contribute to this problem-

Children’s love cannot be bought. Parents often pass through this sense of guilt that in order to demonstrate their unconditional love for them and in return to win their child‘s love and adulation they need to meet all the desires and wants of their children. This guilt might generally originate when parents do not have time to spend with their children.

The Negative power of modeling – children are born copycats. Imitating is one of the first methods children apply to learn about their world. Children observe and learn what you as a parent demonstrate. Also, remember they are tuned not only to what you are doing but also to your emotions. Therefore if you demonstrate behaviors and actions that are socially and morally unacceptable and undesirable it is very likely that your child will model and demonstrate similar behaviors!

Children need to be taught that things they wish to possess need to be earned- Tell them that in order to possess what they really want,, it is important that they need to work towards achieving it. Make them an active participant in the decision making and accomplishment process. This formula needs to be established through modeling and instruction. Rather than giving in to their desire by buying and getting what they want instantly , make them understand the value of what they wish for, what it costs, what might be the consequences of such a purchase for them and sometimes for the entire family unit, ( personally, financially, socially) Make them an active participant in the decision making process.

A Family is not a democracy with elected leaders, where every family member has an equal vote. On the contrary, a family is a loving autocracy where the parents who have the care-taking responsibility are in charge of taking care and conditioning the children who are dependant on their direction and support.

Is there a fine line between a spoiled brat versus a child who may have all he or she wants materially but is not a spoiled brat? Please elaborate.

The burden of establishing that fine line between will be in the hands of the one who models and set those responsible behaviours in their child. It is essential for the parent or the caretaker to instil responsible behaviours that will reflect in their child’s success and overall make up as a balanced individual-

  • self esteem and self worth,- value self and his or her abilities

  • a willingness to learn- tackling problems and setbacks by demonstrating patience and tolerance,

  • The ability to love- demonstrates empathy and compassion for self and those around you.

  • Good character- Accepting responsibilities, developing sportsmanship, striving to help others, respectful and well mannered and resilience.

What are some clear signs a child is becoming spoiled?

A lack of consideration, a defiant attitude to things, irresponsibility, lack of compassion and respect, a failure to see value in anything around them, inability to sense or understand consequences to their respective actions and behaviours. Defensive in nature and high level of intolerance

What are some less open but more hidden signs a child is becoming spoiled?

A lack of consideration, irresponsibility

Are first born children or last born children usually spoiled more than middle children? Please elaborate on birth order.

Not necessarily, however as stated in one of the questions above parents sometimes are bound by a sense of guilt and traditional expectations –

  • of having to meet the desires of their children especially if they were deprived in their early years. In that regard they might tend to “over pamper” their first born

  • or if they are spending extended period of time away from home such that they are unable to spend quality time with their children. Many times mothers might plan to pursue a career later in life and sometimes the last born can be impacted the most.

  • Traditional Expectations and Stereotypes- this can also play a significant role. The first born in a family in many cultures is celebrated, pampered and overprotected. If the first born is a boy then the pampering and celebration might be more intense.

  • Children born after several years of marriage or due to infertility or other health issues- they feel blessed with the birth of the child and therefore tend to pamper and be over protective.

What are the consequences if a toddler is spoiled by his or her parents and it is not stopped? What are some behaviours manifested in pre-teens and teens that they are spoiled?

It is impossible to spoil a newborn infant considering if they wake you up in the middle of the night- they need to be fed, changed, held and put to sleep. They do not need to be disciplined, however by the time they are a toddler they are capable of understanding time outs and consequences. They are also able to understand natural (falling, bruises,) and behavioural (observation and retention of modelling) consequences as they begin to explore their world. Toddlers learn by observing the people around them. As they are observing, they are always learning. They are tuned not only into what you are doing but also into your emotions. Toddlers at this age not only observe but are also retaining the modelled behaviours. Many times parents fail to acknowledge this early. If a parent fails to model behaviours that signify consideration, responsibility, respect and consequences to actions it is very likely that when they become teens and preteens who are “spoiled brats” they will manifest behaviours that are oppositional and defiant in nature. These behaviours could be but not limited to - lack of consideration, a defiant attitude to things, irresponsibility, lack of compassion and respect, a failure to see value in anything around them, inability to sense or understand consequences to their respective actions and behaviours. Selfishness, high level of intolerance, acting out behaviours, anger and temper tantrums.

What are some proactive tops for parents to give to help ensure their child is a happy and well balanced child that is not spoiled?

Children are born totally dependant on external care and knowing nothing about social conduct. Therefore, a parent’s disciplinary responsibility is to create and establish a structure of beliefs and behavior that the child can learn to live by.

However, discipline is more than simply getting your child to behave the way you want him or her to or stopping your child from behaving the way you don’t want on a specific occasion.

To discipline effectively negative correction (punishments, being critical,) should be used sparingly and positive instruction (behaviour modelling, positive reinforcements, praises for good work done, and encouragement) should be used most of the time. Many times the formula is the reverse where in 90% is correction and 10% is instruction. This can be confusing to children and can result in manifesting antisocial and rebellious behaviours.

Discipline is the ongoing process of positive instruction and negative correction through which children are taught to act within the rules and values of the family. So, to state it simply:


To make the equation effective:



Creating effective Family rules

  • Rules hold the family together- They create a foundation for learning responsibility, developing mutual respect and fostering age appropriate independence.

  • Make rules that facilitate what you want- have few rules but clear and specific

  • Establish consequences for actions – set those which you will be willing to enforce.- Children need to l learn early on that life is about choices and the earlier they understand the better they are with responsibility.

  • Be consistent in adhering to the rules that you form.

  • Whenever possible and appropriate involve children in making the rules as well participating in decision making situations

Maintain the Parent role

  • Be specific in telling the children exactly what actions are expected.

  • Don’t lecture- Talk less act more

  • Give positive rewards, feedback and reinforcement for efforts and accomplishments made

  • Be consistent

  • Be flexible in how a child wants to accomplish a task. Encourage their creativity and their thoughts.

Be an Active Parent

  • Be aware that you are always the role model to a child. They learn by watching and copying you

  • Demonstrate your love through actions. .Display affectionate and caring behaviours.

  • Develop routines. It is important for the child to feel the environment in which they are is safe and dependable.

  • Have regular one to one time with your child. This bonding is essential for the well being of your child.

Healthy family portrays involvement of all family members

  • Development of self esteem is an active process. Therefore empower your children as and when appropriate to demonstrate participate actively in family functioning. and decision making.

  • Teach values and skills by actually “doing things” with a child.

Encourage Communication

  • Encourage children to talk about things and issues that are important to them.

  • Be interested in a child’s life and their experiences. By talking through their experiences they are able to learn and better understand about themselves.

  • Use active listening behaviours (face them, use eye contact) and reflect o them what you hear them saying. This demonstrates respect, interest and the sense that what they are saying is important.

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